Letters from the Road: Matej Meštrović and the China Tours

The China Tours continue! This week, acclaimed Croatian pianist, composer, and dear PARMA friend Matej Meštrović shared some of his experiences abroad as his trio, the Orient Expresto, took to the music halls of the Far East. This tour came right off the heels of PARMA and Matej recording his Chinese Rhapsody – a piece that employs traditional Chinese instruments alongside a Western orchestra and celebrates both cultures equally. The celebration was taken a step further with the Orient Expresto’s China tour. While some aspects of the tour presented a few, shall we say, “heated” situations, these performances demonstrated the bonding capabilities of music between performers, musician and audience, and on a wider scale, across cultures.

As Matej described, touring China is a formative experience for the performer. It can be tiring and sometimes taxing, but it makes for a powerful opportunity for growth. “On a tour like this, you will ‘die or you will fly'” Matej joked. He went on to explain that “it is a big challenge. But, at the same time, it is a fantastic experience. For me and the Orient Expresto, it was amazing. We had 11 concerts in 3 weeks, and we traveled 11,000 kilometers. We spent almost every night in a different city. After a few days, we realized that it was not a problem for us to play at night, wake up the next morning at 6am, travel to next city, and play again. Even when we had a day off, we were missing the concert.”

Not only did the ensemble grow technically as performers, but they also developed as a symbiotic group. “The tour is the best way to build up artistic energy in the ensemble, and for a group to learn how to stick together all the time,” Matej stated. “We can go anywhere after the Chinese tour experience.”

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Every experience abroad is filled with its own adventures and takeaways. If you remember back to our interview with the Axiom Quartet, they enjoyed sampling cuisine far outside of their everyday home experience, from stinky noodle soup to dragonfruit. Such was not quite the case for the Trio. As Matej described when asked about the food, “It was HOT! The food is so spicy (you’ll cry most of the time).” Fortunately, the trio seemed to be in high spirits with no real tears for the tour itself.

China also brought a few media opportunities for the trio: “Great thing happened in China! My Facebook friend, photographer Tomislav Marić, works in Beijing! So, we had amazing photo sessions with him in one of the best Chinese photo studios – Airmy! And now, we have a lot of traditional Chinese photos by Tomislav, in traditional Chinese costumes, with great Chinese backgrounds!”

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With the Trio celebrating their 10-year anniversary next year, this experience seems to have forged them into a stronger group, ready to face the next 10 years with enthusiasm and inspiration. And where to tour next? Seems the sky is the limit for Matej and the Expresto!

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